Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam pushes for bigger role in China-led AIIB for city

Chief executive makes request at meeting with Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank leader Jin Liqun and two vice-presidents in Beijing

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 July, 2018, 3:29pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 26 July, 2018, 11:28pm

Hong Kong would like to play a bigger role on the international stage by sharing experiences with emerging economies and helping them to set up regulatory bodies, the city’s leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor told the Beijing-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) on Thursday.

The chief executive made the request at a meeting with AIIB president Jin Liqun and two bank vice-presidents as she kicked off her three-day trip in the Chinese capital.

The bank, with a total capital base of US$100 billion (HK$780 billion), is Beijing’s answer to the Asian Development Bank, led by Japan and the World Bank, which is heavily influenced by the US.

The AIIB was set up to help member countries finance their infrastructure projects. It now has more than 80 members, including Hong Kong and the Group of Seven countries excluding the United States and Japan.

Hong Kong joined the AIIB with a total subscription of US$765.1 million, or 0.8 per cent of the bank’s shares. Earlier this year, the city’s government also donated US$10 million to a special fund under the bank which will provide financial and technical support to poorer members for planning projects and tackling poverty.

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At the meeting with Jin, who previously served as vice-president of the Asian Development Bank and vice-minister of finance in China, Lam said the donation showed Hong Kong’s intention to assist a “very well-intended global initiative to support infrastructural projects”. But apart from offering money, Hong Kong also hoped to play a more diverse role.

“In some of the emerging economies along the ‘Belt and Road’, whether in building up institutional safeguards, in sharing best practices in city management, in doing all sorts of training here and there, I hope the AIIB could also give us this opportunity when opportunities arise,” Lam said.

The Belt and Road Initiative is a strategy rolled out by President Xi Jinping in 2013 to boost trade and infrastructure links between China and more than 60 countries across three continents.

Lam also said that while the trade war between China and the US could bring uncertainty to the city, she still believed “2018 will be a very good year for Hong Kong”.

Jin, speaking before Lam, did not touch on a more varied role for Hong Kong, but he said the city was already “not really a small member” of the bank, and some residents had been helping with its operations.

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“We have benefited from Hong Kong’s membership enormously, not only in terms of capital subscription … We have Hong Kong [professionals] working very hard in this institution. They teamed up very well with the rest of the staff,” Jin said.

It was Lam’s fourth meeting with Jin since the Hong Kong chief executive took office in July last year.

On Thursday afternoon, she attended the graduation ceremony of the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ internship programme at the Zhongguancun hi-tech zone in the capital.

For the programme, co-organised by the Hong Kong government, about 20 Hong Kong tertiary students were sent to work at the academy or tech companies in Beijing for six weeks.

At the ceremony, Lam said the programme was launched because she promised in her maiden policy address last October that the government would provide more internship opportunities in mainland China for Hong Kong young people “to deepen their understanding” of the country.

In May this year, Beijing announced that Hong Kong would enjoy access to national-level funding under new directives issued by President Xi Jinping to transform the city into an international innovation hub. Lam reiterated that the policy was an important boost for the city and her government, as it had been working closely with Guangdong province to implement the “Greater Bay Area” project, which aimed to turn Hong Kong, Macau and nine Guangdong cities into an innovation and technology centre rivalling Silicon Valley.

Lam then visited the academy’s Institute of Automation.

On Thursday morning, Lam had a breakfast meeting with former science and technology minister Wan Gang, who is now president of the Chinese Association for Science and Technology, a Beijing-backed society of scientists.

Lam was scheduled to meet Chinese Academy of Sciences president Bai Chunli on Friday and attend a meeting at the Ministry of Science and Technology to discuss policies to support innovation and technology in Hong Kong.

She would also meet another group of about 20 Hong Kong young people taking part in a six-week internship programme at the Palace Museum in Beijing’s Forbidden City.

The chief executive was then expected to watch a Chinese opera performance showcasing troupes from around the country. Hong Kong would be represented by a group of about 30 young local actors and actresses, aged six to 21.